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Rep. Roberts files bill to increase protections for domestic violence victims

  

A pre-filed bill from Republican Rep. Lane Roberts seeks to add greater protections for domestic violence victims and family members. 

Although it’s expected to change as it works its way through the legislative process, HB 1699 would allow domestic violence victims to testify via video and withhold residential addresses and employment details in open court. It also would allow the service of an ex parte order to constitute service of a legal notice if a full order of protection is granted. 

“It is very difficult for those who have never experienced domestic violence to know what it feels like to truly be in fear. Your home is not your haven or safe place; it’s where you’re abused,” Roberts, a Republican from Joplin, said in an interview. “When you have to go into a room and offer testimony against an individual who has harmed you, face-to-face, it’s intimidating. And the ability to intimidate is part of [domestic violence].”

Roberts said testifying in person would allow a potentially dangerous abuser to know when and where a victim will be. Allowing a victim to testify via video would provide some level of security while maintaining due process for the accused who can still face their accuser. 

“Rep. Roberts is continuing his precedent from last session to fix safety barriers for victims of domestic violence,” said Jennifer Carter Dochler, public policy director for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence. “HB 1699 addresses multiple loopholes in law yet we are particularly pleased with the clarification that service of an ex parte would be able to serve as a notice if the full Order of Protection is granted. This will dramatically increase victim safety as often abusive partners deliberately avoid the service.”

Last year, Roberts championed legislation allowing for full orders of protection for life. 

Roberts, a former Joplin police chief, said he didn’t expect to make domestic violence his niche in the General Assembly, but it’s become something he’s particularly impassioned about. He said he wants to strengthen Missouri’s laws to protect victims of domestic violence while still allowing the accused to have due process. 

“It’s important we make sure both sides of the equation are treated fairly,” Roberts said. 

There are two provisions in HB 1699 that Roberts expects to be changed while the bill goes through the legislative process. 

One would remove plea bargains for certain domestic assault charges, and another would require an individual convicted of domestic violence to pay $1,000 to a domestic violence shelter in the city or county where the victim resides on top of any other restitution ordered. 

Roberts is chairman of the House Crime Prevention Committee. An Air Force veteran, Roberts has also served as the director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety as well as the chief of police for towns in Oregon and Washington. 

Pre-filing began Wednesday. The 2022 legislative session begins Jan. 5.